Racism in the media is a deeply entrenched issue that requires urgent attention. The recent case of ABC journalist Stan Grant, who has taken indefinite leave after facing a torrent of racist abuse, highlights the pervasive nature of discrimination faced by people of colour, women, and individuals from migrant backgrounds in the media and political spheres. Grant’s decision to step away from his role comes as a culmination of ongoing racist attacks he has experienced throughout his career.
It is important to recognise the role played by News Corporation, led by Rupert Murdoch, in perpetuating racism within the media landscape. News Corporation has a history of amplifying racism, as seen in their coverage of incidents such as Adam Goodes – hounded out of the AFL in 2015 – the Black Lives Matter movement, the ‘African gangs’ agenda pushed by the Liberal Party during 2019, and the current debate surrounding the Voice to Parliament. Their influence in shaping public opinion and promoting divisive narratives cannot be ignored.
However, it is not only News Corporation perpetuating racism in the media. Many other media outlets – including the ABC, Nine Media, Seven Network, Ten Media, and The Guardian – often fail to adequately address and combat racism. While some pay lip service to the issue, others – such as News Corporation – display outright hostility. This lack of action and accountability allows racism to persist within the industry, hindering progress towards a more inclusive society.
The power of social media exacerbates the problem, acting as a platform for hate speech and racist abuse. While discussions about combating racism often emerge in response to such incidents, little is done to address the root causes. It is crucial for the media industry to confront its own role in perpetuating racism and take concrete steps to rectify the situation.
Grant’s departure also raises concerns about the support offered by ABC management. He criticised the lack of support he received amid the abusive attacks and expressed disappointment in the ABC’s failure to address the role of News Corporation in fueling this racism. Grant’s sentiments were echoed by ABC News head Justin Stevens and managing director David Anderson, who accused News Corporation of relentlessly attacking the public broadcaster.
The relationship between the ABC and News Corporation has long been contentious, with News Corporation often criticising the ABC. The recent revelations at Senate estimate hearings, where ABC executives were questioned by Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, shed light on the extent of News Corporation’s influence and the lack of action taken by ABC management.
One crucial step towards combating racism in the media is reassessing the association between the ABC and News Corporation. Constantly inviting News Corporation journalists onto ABC programs should be reconsidered, as it provides a platform to a corporate entity that consistently displays disdain for the public broadcaster. Instead, the ABC should prioritise supporting marginalised voices and fostering a more inclusive and equitable media landscape.
Addressing racism requires a comprehensive approach that goes beyond overt acts of discrimination. It requires examining the language, narratives, and perspectives used in media coverage. The media industry must strive to be more inclusive, ensuring that diverse voices are not only heard but also respected and valued.
It is time for the media industry to reflect on its role in perpetuating racism and take meaningful action to bring about positive change. By supporting independent journalism and demanding accountability, we can work towards a society that values diversity, fosters respectful dialogue, and challenges discriminatory practices in all forms.
The battle for balanced reporting
It has to be remembered that News Corporation in Britain came under fire for unethical practices –the tapping of a deceased girl’s phone, with the aim of uncovering private messages, with many of the individuals responsible for this breach of ethics still retaining their positions within the company. This incident highlights that it was not an isolated event or a mere lapse in judgment by a few individuals, but rather a systemic problem within the organisation. In the context of this obvious lack of ethics, ABC programs such as Insiders should consider banning journalists from News Corporation appearing as panellists.
During the recent broadcast of King Charles’ coronation, the ABC organised a panel discussion on colonialism and its impact on Indigenous Australians. Invited guests, including Stan Grant, Craig Foster, Teela Reed, and Julian Leeser, engaged in a conversation about this critical topic. Surprisingly, the abuse and backlash were primarily directed at Stan Grant, despite him being an invited guest rather than the organiser of the panel. Conservative groups, including News Corporation, the Australian Monarchist League, and supporters of the royal family, spearheaded the offensive against Grant.
Critics argued that the timing of the discussion, which coincided with the coronation, was inappropriate. However, the conversation about the effects of colonisation and the future of the monarchy in Australia is crucial and should not be limited by ceremonial events. The strong negative reaction from conservatives reflects a resistance to open dialogue and a refusal to acknowledge the complexities of Australia’s history.
The response from News Corporation has been a doubling down on their attacks against the ABC, attempting to distance themselves from any association with the racist abuse directed at Stan Grant and other individuals. This denial of responsibility is disingenuous, as News Corporation has played a significant role in shaping public discourse and perpetuating divisive narratives.
While acknowledging that the ABC is not perfect, it is evident that racism in the media remains a persistent problem. Stan Grant highlighted the lack of support from ABC management during this challenging time. This lack of understanding and empathy can be attributed to the absence of Indigenous representation in senior management and the board of the ABC, and this limited diversity within these decision-making positions perpetuates a dismissive attitude towards racist attacks and prevents meaningful change.
Addressing these issues requires a comprehensive overhaul of the ABC’s board and management. As a nation, Australia must mature and foster a broader range of debates that reflect the diversity of its population. However, vested interests often impede progress, with News Corporation acting as the mouthpiece for those resisting change.
Senator Hanson-Young has introduced legislation for a federal inquiry into News Corporation – the outcome of this inquiry at this stage remains uncertain, but it represents an opportunity to examine the influence and practices of Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation in Australia. At 92 years old, it is essential for Murdoch to understand the criticisms leveled against him and the negative impact he has had on Australian media and politics, before he passes away.
In an ideal world, Murdoch would have faced legal consequences after the Leveson inquiry in 2011. The decline of print media, exacerbated by online platforms, has already weakened the power of traditional press barons like Murdoch and the dwindling subscription numbers and waning influence of News Corporation indicate a shifting media landscape.
As Australia strives for a more inclusive and equitable society, media organisations must recognise the need for greater diversity in their ranks. It is time for the mainstream media to evolve and accurately reflect the multicultural fabric of the nation. While change may be slow, it is crucial to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy and work towards a media landscape that embraces all perspectives. Only then can Australia truly mature as an independent nation and move away from the divisive media narratives that have plagued its history.